Our children don’t need any encouragement in the area of scatalogical humor, but here we all have been anyway, laughing through the pages of Dav Pilkey’s new Dog Man. (Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.) That is to say–this book would not be something to read to your four-year-old daughter. Unless, uh, she had two older brothers and was already unfazed by such humor.
Case in point:
Dog Man, as Pilkey tells it, is the creation of George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two comic-writing friends whose teacher, Ms. Construde, clearly does not appreciate their “disruptive activity in my classroom.” All my kids love it, of course.
The premise itself is a little more violent than I would have liked for my (or any) kids: Dog Man is born when the evil cat Petey blows up Officer Knight and his dog Greg:
Doctor: I’m sorry Greg, but your body is dying. and your head is dying too, cop.
Officer: Rats! I sure hate my dying head!
But just when all seemed lost…
Nurse Lady: Hey! Why don’t we sew Greg’s head onto cop’s body?
Doctor: Good idea, nurse lady! You’re a genius!
Here “a brand-new crime-fighting sensation was unleashed.”
Dog Man the character is about what you would expect from somebody who is half man, half dog. He battles Petey, then Robo Chief, and then a giant, walking Philly cheesesteak mascot in chapter 4, “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” This last chapter was probably the funniest and best part of the book. Sample lines:
OH look! Little baby hot dogs are starting a revolution!!!!
We’re not little babies! we’re regular sized!
(Their subsequent claim to be “gangsta” will go over kids’ heads and seems to unfortunately engage in cultural appropriation.)
A fun feature that comes up at several points is the “Flip-O-Rama,” where you can create a little bit of animation by quickly flipping between pages. At this moment I’m looking at the book’s warning: “Remember—Flip it, Don’t Rip it!!!!!!”, which happens to be right next to a newly made rip in our edition. Oh, well.
The section in the back of the book with “How 2 Draw” different characters is icing on the cake.
For how inexpensive the book is, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sewn binding. The colors are vibrant and the lettering is what you would expect from Dav-Pilkey-as-two-kids-writing-a-comic. It inspired my own kids to write their own. (Details forthcoming, or maybe we’ll just try for a book deal.)
If you’re trying to avoid scatological humor, don’t get this book. If you’ve maybe slacked a little with your standards for your kids in that regard, they’ll probably love Dog Man.
Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.
Our kids have also spent many collective minutes and hours poring over two books from The World of Mamoko series: The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000 and The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons.
The premise of Mamoko is simple: “Use your eyes!” to “follow the adventures” of more than two dozen different characters through seven detailed spreads that span two pages each. The books are hardback, like giant board books, so they’ll last us a long time. The target age range is 5-8 years old, but my four-year-old (who can’t yet read) really enjoys looking at the pictures, too.
Here’s a spread from World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:
It’s lots of fun. There are short descriptions of each character that help in knowing what to look for. For example, a pink elephant (holding a hammer?) is Othello Smith:
OTHELLO SMITH is feeling bummed out. What is the cause of his distress?
The book is pretty funny. And it’s big enough that, like the Where’s Waldo? books, two people can easily look for characters and their antics at the same time.
But I told Candlewick my kids would help me review these two books, and a promise is a promise, so… here are my nine-year-old’s review notes from The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000:
And here’s his short take on The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:
Thanks to Candlewick Press for the review copies, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.
My six-year-old son wanted to start a blog to write book reviews, so I’m turning my blog over to him for today’s post. Below is his review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic, 2013), including a bit of Q and A between me and him. Enjoy.
I like this book.
Because it tells me about sharks. How long they can open their mouths.
What was your favorite part about this book?
When the shark does diving.
What was surprising about the book?
That sharks can hear.
How can they hear?
They sense it. “Sharks hear sounds too low for you to hear.”
Who would like this book?
I got them from my wife, who heard them somewhere:
Don’t yuck my yum.
That’s it. Don’t yuck my yum.
You may not like the only barely undercooked beans in this chili, or the grilled asparagus, or the salad greens because even though you chew them into a tiny million pieces you still manage to gag yourself on them–
Sorry… where was I? Oh, yeah–don’t yuck my yum.
You may not like this food, but I do, and it’s probably good for you. You’re welcome to not like it, but I find it yummy, so… no “yuck” allowed, please.
Marc Rosenthal’s Big Bot, Small Bot: A Book of Robot Opposites is short and simple, but wonderfully executed.
The book is just what it says: through colorful images and some imaginative flap-lifting, kids and parents follow some “retro-futuristic robots” through opposites like wet/dry, full/empty, and so on.
When you lift the flap, the opposite is revealed. So you start with this:
And end up with this!
I really wanted to just take a picture of every opposite and show it to you, but I will simply recommend the book, instead. The target ages are 2 to 5, which seems spot on to me. (You can see more images here, if you like.)
The book is funny, clever, and engaging. My 3-year-old was a fan from the first time she read it. The paper is nice and thick, too. That means it will give up a pretty good fight when your toddler decides–in a fit of unexplained and inexplicable rage–to rip all their books. (I’ve heard some kids do this.)
It makes for some excellent parent-child reading and interaction.
Thanks to the good folks at POW! Kids Books for sending the book for review, though that did not influence my opinions.
A couple of months ago my three-year-old told me she had a dream that three angels came to her door and opened it.
(My heart started to melt a little–I love this kind of stuff.)
Then she told me that her two older brothers had a dream that three monsters came to their door and opened it… and ate them up.
Daniel Tiger (a.k.a., “D. Tiger,” according to our three-year-old) continues to be a hit around here. I expressed some skepticism two-and-a-half years ago toward a tiger replacing Mr. Rogers (see here). And of course no one could ever fill those shoes and that sweater. But Daniel Tiger–both the character and the show–has turned out to be pretty awesome.
Yes, we enjoy the show. And the music is a favorite soundtrack at home. Last year our three-year-old (then two) got the toy trolley and some character figurines for Christmas.
I wonder whether the franchise has been slow to merchandise since heavy consumerism isn’t exactly a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood value. However, I have wished on numerous occasions for D. Tiger books to read to my daughter. Now Simon & Shuster and The Fred Rogers Company are releasing a slew of volumes for children.
One such release is the surprisingly affordable six-book boxed set: Daniel’s Grr-ific Stories. It includes six short stories (22 pages of story text in each) with full-color illustrations:
As with the show, each book uses an interesting (and, let’s admit it, cute) narrative to help children deal with the many and diverse feelings that life throws their way.
Daniel is a big helper with the new baby–he helps get her room ready, holds her when she’s born, and even helps change a diaper! Smoother sailing then one might expect when a new baby comes and shakes up a family dynamic. (This may be one reason Honest Toddler does not like Daniel Tiger.)
The books are true to the show, which is nice–you’ll see, for example, familiar songs here:
Daniel is not sure what he’s going to do at the sleepover. He sings, “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do!”
Daniel and Prince Wednesday have a pajama dance party and brush their teeth together, but then Daniel gets scared:
Now it’s time to turn out the light and go to sleep. But wait! There is a great big shadow on the wall. It looks scary to Daniel! What could it be?
But, lest you worry our own child should get scared, the authors are on it:
Daniel remembers, if something seems scary, “See what it is. You might feel better.”
Sure enough (spoiler alert), “It’s just Mr. Lizard!” It was only a stuffed animal.
“When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do!” comes up, too, when Dr. Anna sings it to Daniel in his check-up. Nothing to fear. He’s growing stripes just as he should!
All six of the books are of the quality you’d expect. (Though, be advised: they’re paperback.) Your kid may want you to read all six before going to bed, but one or two or three will probably fill 10–15 minutes easily enough. There’s a lot of good content here.
The illustrations are well-done, too:
Also included in the six-book box is a full-color growth chart parents can put on the wall. It starts at 17 inches (so you hang it 16 inches above the floor) and goes up to 59 inches. Daniel, Miss Elaina, Prince Wednesday, O the Owl, and Katerina Kittycat are all there cheering for your growing wee one. A nice touch is that at three parts there is, “Now I’m big enough to _” that you can fill in.
Here’s what the whole thing looks like:
For how much is here, both the list price and the discounted price on Amazon make it easily worthwhile.
Thanks to the good folks at Simon & Schuster for sending the boxed set for review, though that did not influence my opinions.
Only the Hess toy trucks at the babysitting room at our local Y have convinced our two boys to accept a drop-off there. They’re much better built and way cooler to play with than one might otherwise expect from a toy made by a gasoline station.
Hess, it turns out, has been producing its Toy Truck line since 1964. The first make was a tanker trailer, modeled after the ones that brought gas to the stations. For $1.29 (including batteries!) you could put the tanker trailer under the Christmas tree for your little one.
2015’s model is especially awesome:
This year’s Hess Toy is a red Fire Truck with oversized tires, swiveling chrome-detailed fire hose nozzles, LED lights including a high-powered pivoting LED searchlight, a slide-out ramp and 4 realistic sound effects. The accompanying Ladder Rescue features a rotating extension ladder with a movable nozzle and push-activated friction motor. (source)
Here it is (click on any image in this post to enlarge):
You’re really getting two trucks for the price of one. Which is good, because the toy is $30.99. That’s more than most parents I know would want to spend on a truck for their kid, but it also includes free shipping and batteries. Given its high-quality construction, the truck looks like it will last a long time, so I don’t think it’s an unfair–if high–price, especially considering all its features.
Here’s what the trucks look like with lights on:
I got quite a start when I pulled out the ramp at the back of the larger truck–it makes a robust sound that you’d expect from a real-life mechanical ramp. It’s not the kind of annoying sound that will bug you when on repeat, but this might be a toy for kids to take out of their brother’s bedroom and into the living room when they wake up at 6:30 a.m. to play. The ramp makes for an easy entrance/exit for the Ladder Rescue truck to go do its own thing.
The Fire Truck has more sounds than the ramp. There is also an Ignition button (very realistic), a Horn, and a Siren. Each sound plays for about 10 seconds and is–this is worth repeating–not something to play with while baby sister is napping. But that makes the toy all the more fun and awesome. The horn sounds like there’s a real emergency at your house. (Not to mention the siren!) If need be, you don’t have to wait 10 seconds for it to stop; you can just push the button again to silence it. (That’s a thoughtful feature!) So long as your neighbors know it’s just the Hess Toy Truck and don’t go calling 9-1-1 on you, you’ll be fine.
You can turn just the lights on via the switch under the truck. There are two options: you can have the lights solidly on, or turn them on in flasher mode. Regardless of what you do at the bottom of the truck, turning on any sounds causes the lights to flash. There’s also a button on top of the truck that turns just the spotlight on.
The wheels are on both trucks really securely, so you can run them across the kitchen floor at full speed and not worry about it running into the fridge. It’s a smooth ride.
The smaller Ladder Rescue truck is fun in its own right. It’s got a fully extendable plastic ladder with a small water spout (not real!) on the end. Both trucks are sturdy and made of hard, solid plastic. The trim pieces (mirrors, ladder hose, front visors) feel a little flimsier than one might hope, but it would take a child’s deliberate act to break anything here. (Not outside the realm of possibility.) The ladder swivels a full 360 degrees and can be snapped into place when not extended.
The Ladder Rescue truck also lights up via an on/off switch on the bottom of the truck. What this means for parents is that your child will turn off all the lights and find the darkest place in the house right away, so as to test the truck properly. 🙂 Parents will also want to make sure to turn the toy off at night so as to not let the batteries drain.
You can’t open the doors to either truck, so your LEGO minifigures will have to latch on somewhere else, but there is plenty of room for them to hop on and go fight fires.
This is really an awesome toy, and the more I played with it (yes, I played with it), the more I enjoyed it. Hours of countless fun for children are inevitable. Both trucks are thoughtfully designed and excellently executed. And the Fire Truck is pretty giant as far as children’s toy vehicles go, so you could do well to make this the “big” present you’re getting your child(ren) this Christmas.
One other cool thing: Hess has made 100 individually numbered Silver Editions of the Fire Truck and Ladder Rescue toy. I got the expected red one and was not disappointed.
Many thanks to the fine folks doing PR for Hess who set me up with the free product sample for review, with no expectations as the the review’s content.